Last night, Melbourne witnessed a Gala event that left everyone in awe. Count Shiva, as I fondly called my friend, was honoured in a way that surpassed even his wildest dreams. With over 400 guests in attendance, including his loving family, friends, and the fashion scene of Melbourne, it was a night filled with love, admiration, and inspiration.

The evening was graced with heartfelt tributes from various speakers who shared their personal stories and experiences with Count Shiva. Sister Janee began the night by reminiscing about their childhood adventures and the unwavering support they had for each other. Her words set the tone for an evening filled with nostalgia and gratitude. 

Janee said, “Thank you to all the people who have come together to celebrate my brother’s life tonight, in a way that you must agree is so truly authentic to everything he loved. The tributes and sentiments you have shared since his passing have been so touching, and made me stop to reflect on Shiv, as I call him, and the mark he made in our lives.”

Graeme Lewsey, former Melbourne Fashion Festival CEO, took the stage and spoke about Count Shiva’s immense contributions to the fashion industry. He highlighted his innovative ideas, entrepreneurial spirit, and unwavering commitment to fostering emerging talent. It was evident that Count Shiva had left an indelible mark on the fashion scene of Melbourne.

Caroline Ralphsmith, CEO of the Melbourne Fashion Festival, and a prominent figure in the fashion industry, expressed her admiration for Count Shiva’s passion and dedication. She spoke about how he had challenged conventions and pushed boundaries, inspiring countless individuals to pursue their dreams fearlessly. 

Ralph said, “I had the privilege of working with Shiva for over 13 years across multiple organisations and industries and most recently at ‘The Melbourne Fashion Festival’, Shiva’s affinity with people and his intellect, natural ability to connect when he saw opportunities that others didn’t, and his enthusiasm, made it impossible not to get swept up.”

Rachelle Unreich, a renowned fashion journalist, took the stage and captivated the audience with her eloquent words. She painted a vivid picture of Count Shiva’s journey, from humble beginnings to becoming a trailblazer in the fashion industry. Her words served as a reminder that with passion and determination, one can achieve greatness. Rachelle says, “Shiva was fun, effervescent and intellectual.”

Sharon Johal, a close friend of Count Shiva, shared personal anecdotes that showcased his generosity and kindness. She spoke of his unwavering support for her to be true to her Indian heritage and to embrace it. As she spoke, tears welled up in the eyes of many attendees, touched by the depth of Count Shiva’s character.

Shiva’s closest friends described him in three words

Grace Khallouf says, “Shiva was, warm, loving, inclusive”.

Sarah Gale says, “Shiva was, Warm, Generous, and Kind”.

Valentina Jovanoska says, “Shiva was, Fabulous, Fashion & Flair”.

Jono Francisco says, “Shiva was, Gregarious, Flamboyant and Caring”.

Helen Reizer says, “Shiva was, Extravagant, Loyal and my Best Friend.”

Liz Sunshine says, “Shiva was, Original, Genuine, and Irreplaceable.”

Sam Tabone says, “Shiva was, Loyal & Upper Class”.

The Hon Julie Bishop, unable to attend in person, sent a heartfelt video tribute to Count Shiva. As a prominent figure in Australian politics, her words held immense weight. She commended Count Shiva for his entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to drive change in the fashion industry. Her message served as a testament to his influence, reaching even the highest echelons of society.

Shiva’s close friend Jono Francisco spoke about their 30-year friendship and the closeness they formed during the Covid bubble.  

Jono said, “Our friendship became rock solid as we navigated the home arrest and we would socialise in the backyard with champagne, live streaming concerts, lots of stories and long strolls by the Yarra River”.

As the night came to a close, the room was filled with a sense of gratitude and inspiration. Count Shiva had not only touched the lives of those present but had also left an indelible mark on the fashion industry and the community as a whole. His journey was a reminder that dreams can be turned into reality, and that by following our passions, we can create a lasting impact on the world.

As I finish writing this story from my heart, I will always look for the Cape that would sweep towards me at ‘The Fashion Festival’ and hear Shiva’s voice saying, “let’s get a quick snap”.

Thank you, Shiva, for contributing to our publication and for the advice and support you brought to my life.

Melinda Sullivan